Mercury Eight Model 79M Station Wagon

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Eight Model 79M Station Wagon





The 1941 Mercury Eight got all-new styling and some engineering improvements. The Mercury now shared its body shell with Ford, probably to lower Mercury production costs. Mercury's wheelbase was expanded by 2.0 in (51 mm) to 118.0 in (2,997 mm). There were many chassis refinements, including improved spring lengths, rates, and deflections, plus changes in shackling, shocks, and an improved stabilizer bar, but the old fashioned transverse springs were still used. The new body featured door bottoms that flared out over the running boards, allowing for wider seats and interiors. The car had 2.0 in (51 mm) more headroom, two-piece front fenders (three-piece at first), and more glass area. The front pillars were made slimmer and the windshield was widened, deepened, and angled more steeply. Parking lights were separate and set atop the fenders for greater visibility. Headlight bezels were redesigned. In all closed Mercury’s the rear-quarter windows opened out. Front vent wings were now crank-operated, and in closed cars the ventilation wing support bars rolled down with the windows. The 4-door convertible, offered in 1940, was gone, but a station wagon was added. The woodie wagon's body behind the engine cowl was identical to Ford's, and produced at the company's Iron Mountain plant in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. The "Eight" script was moved to the rear of the hood. 90,556 Mercury Eights were sold in the 1941 model year.

Chrysler Corporation had introduced a novel barrel-back Town & Country sedan-wagon before the war, produced as a Royal in 1941 and Windsor in 1942. A flight of five woodie styles was planned for 1946, but in the end only a Windsor sedan and New Yorker convertible were put on sale. Nash, meanwhile, put wood appliqué on an Ambassador sedan and sold it as the Suburban from 1946 to ’48, while Chevrolet offered a dealer-installed Country Club wood kit for 1946-48 models. At first glance it might appear that the Ford and Mercury Sportsman convertibles were conceived in envy of the Chrysler Town & Country, but the truth is not so simple.

During the war, Henry Ford II noticed a Model A chassis sitting in a corner of the Ford design studio. It had been there since the 1930s, an artefact about which the elder Henry Ford loved to reminisce. Young Henry asked chief designer E.T. “Bob” Gregorie to work up a body for it, so he could drive to the beach at his Long Island home.

Gregorie sketched up a wood-bodied convertible, with two doors, red leather interior and a khaki top over a Model A frame. It had a forward-sloped tail with Continental spare, which dropped down, tailgate style, and a stylish curved coupe pillar similar to that of the 1928-29 Model A closed cars. After the Fords had used the Model A for a summer on Long Island, it was given to Gregorie, who kept it and took it to Florida after his retirement.

That Model A convertible had a profound effect on the post-war Ford product line. Inspired by the jaunty little car, in the early part of 1945 Gregorie and his lead illustrator, Ross Cousins, worked up drawings for a wood-bodied 1946 convertible. A prototype was built at Iron Mountain by taking the skin off an early production convertible and fitting wood in its place. Using standard convertible parts to the extent possible simplified manufacture and helped restrain costs.

Because the wood framing was necessarily larger than equivalent steel, the back end ended up a bit bulkier, and convertible fenders wouldn’t work. Instead, rear fenders and taillights from the 1941 sedan delivery were used. Sportsman seats were upholstered in genuine leather facings in tan or red, with French stitching. The front floor mats had colour-keyed carpet inserts, and power windows were standard. Announced in September, the first Sportsman was completed in December 1945 and presented to actress Ella Raines at Christmas.

The Sportsman became part of the Ford Super Deluxe line; at $1,982 it was about $500 more than a standard convertible. Mercury, too, got a Sportsman, in April 1946, selling for $2,209, about the same margin over a regular Mercury convertible.

In 1942 the Mercury Eight's slender bullet parking lights were replaced with rectangular units placed high on the fenders inboard of the headlights. Running boards were now completely concealed under flared door bottoms. The instrument panel now features two identical circles for speedometer and clock with gauges to the left of the speedometer, a glove compartment to the right of the clock, and a large radio speaker cover in the centre. The grille looked more like that of the Lincoln-Zephyr and Continental. The "Eight" script was gone but an "8" appeared at the top of the grille center. Horsepower was increased to 100. Mercury's biggest engineering news for 1942 was "Liquamatic," Ford's first semiautomatic transmission. It wasn't much of a success and Mercury wouldn't have another automatic transmission until Merc-O-Matic appeared in 1951, which was of course a true automatic. Mercury production for the short 1942 model year totalled only 1,902. Output was halted in February 1942 as American auto plants were converted to the exclusive production of war material.

Although Mercury's prewar history was short, the Mercury Eight had already earned for itself the image of being a fine performer in mph as well as mpg, this "hot car" image quite in keeping with its name, chosen by Edsel Ford, that of the fleet-footed messenger of the gods of Roman mythology. The Mercury Eight was strongly identified as an upmarket Ford during this period. In 1945 the Lincoln-Mercury division would be established to change that.

A new grille was the most noticeable difference between the 1942 and 1946 Mercury’s. It had thin vertical bars surrounded by a trim piece painted the same colour as the car. An "Eight" script now appeared down its center. The Liquimatic automatic transmission option was eliminated. The most distinctive new Mercury was the Sportsman convertible. It featured wood body panels. Only 205 examples of it were produced and it was discontinued the following model year. Mercury Eight sales totalled 86,603.

Styling changes were slight in 1947. The Mercury name was placed on the side of the hood. Different hubcaps were used. The border around the grille was chrome plated. The "Eight" script still ran down its center. There was also new trunk trim. More chrome was used on the interior and the dash dial faces were redesigned. The convertible and station wagon came with leather upholstery. The other body styles used fabric. The wood panelled Sportsman convertible was gone. 86,363 Mercury Eights were sold.

For all practical purposes the 1948 Mercury Eights were identical to the 1947s. The major changes consisted of different dial faces and no steering column lock. 50,268 Mercury Eights were sold.

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